On a foggy morning, Angela Wynn heads into the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. Normally, she’d be starting a day of work as a housekeeper here. But today, she’s at the school for a different reason. She’s here to learn how to cut out wood blanks from Richard Carter, a longtime Brasstown Carver.Continue Reading Take Me to More News
Brandon Maynard, a special education teacher at Cabell Midland High School (CMHS), earned West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Above and Beyond Award for November, which recognizes excellence and creativity of Mountain State teachers.
Maynard was honored by WVPB in front of his class, coworkers and administrators. He received a monetary award and a signature Blenko Glass blue apple paperweight. The West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office sponsors the award, presenter of the SMART529 college savings program in the Mountain State.
Maynard was nominated by a parent of one of his students. She celebrated his ability to be patient, compassionate, understanding and joyful. All while consistently communicating with parents, administration and support staff. In her nomination, she states, “He is calm and energetic all at the same time. He recognizes the student’s best qualities and builds on those for making learning fun and relevant for long-term success. He created greenhouse opportunities for learning and incorporates life skills that will help students with disabilities become more independent. He ensures safety while also exploring moments for students to be leaders themselves and moments of being just like everyone else in high school.”
Maynard knew from the beginning he wanted to be an educator thanks to his second grade teacher, but there was a long road to his current role at CMHS. He wanted to teach science, then physical education and eventually history. Unfortunately, history teachers were not in high demand, so he began substitute teaching in a variety of classrooms which is how he was exposed to his current calling in special education.
He said, “I finally started my career. I enrolled in classes at Marshall towards a master’s in special education with an autism endorsement and I haven’t regretted it since. The population of students that I work with are incredible when you give them the right tools to be successful. Every day is a new challenge, and I am constantly learning and impressed by their abilities and talents. They make each day and school year worth every moment.”
Maynard is constantly making his activities engaging and relevant. They learned about the solar system and planets using salt dough and even though it was a messy time, the students loved it, so he used the same method to teach the skeletal system. They’ve also made model rockets and went outside to launch them to learn how difficult it can be to design a rocket for space travel. “Anything we can do that is hands-on and gets them actively engaged in a lesson is most enjoyable.”
The class also has a greenhouse available that they use to grow plants year-round. The students not only plant the flowers and vegetables but also learn the plant life cycle, plant parts, the responsibilities of raising a garden and the benefits of plants to animals and people.
Maynard also makes it a point to collaborate and work with others in the school. His coworker, Sherri Riggio, who is an autism mentor said, “I’ve worked with Mr. Maynard for years and nobody deserves this award more than he does. He puts heart and soul into this job. He truly connects with his students and always focuses on what is best for each one. He works cooperatively with everyone in our special education department and the school as a whole. He makes the classroom and school a better place through his involvement. If anyone goes above and beyond, it is Maynard!”
Maynard is praised for not only his work in the school, but also outside the building. His nominator said he would drive to her home to deliver materials she was unable to access and attend community theater performances her son performed in. He seeks out and communicates to families different community activities that are sensory friendly and accommodating to their unique needs. She said, “He is an outstanding advocate that goes beyond his job requirements because he cares and is genuinely invested in his students beyond the confines of the special education classroom.”
When asked about how he incorporates inclusive activities inside and outside the classroom, Maynard said, “The students I work with in special education deserve the opportunity to be included in everything other students participate in, to the best of their ability. I want to create an environment for my students where they feel they can be themselves and not have to worry about anxiety or other triggers that may create a bad experience.”
He recalled some rewarding experiences he had with the students by simply including them. Once, a student of his had the opportunity to create a project and present information about goats. To allow her to have a visual aid for the presentation, he brought in one of his own goats for her to use. “That day was the most I’ve ever seen that student smile. She did fantastic with the presentation and was able to show and teach other students about goats through a PowerPoint presentation.”
Another time was with a student and family whom he goes to church with and attended most of their church softball games together. The student would sit with him and would always encourage the players. So, after one of the games, Maynard took him onto the field to let him bat. Maynard said, “He ended up crushing a ball out of the infield never having played baseball before. He ran the bases and had a blast. I love taking the initiative to give these kids a chance to just be kids and allow them the opportunities to be successful in any activity I can get them in.”
Each month, WVPB has an esteemed panel of judges that select one deserving teacher who goes above and beyond for the students in West Virginia. If you know of a deserving teacher who goes “Above and Beyond,” please click here to nominate them.